Quilting long has been considered a time-honored traditional craft in America with this country’s early settlers piecing together scraps of worn clothing to create colorfully patterned bedding. Passed down through generations, specific quilt patterns became associated with certain families and/or regions of the country.
Today, some of those quilt patterns are serving a whole new purpose as communities join together to share the heritage of local families by painting and displaying these painted quilt patterns as outdoor artwork on rural barns. Not only do these barn quilts serve as a means of artistic expression but they’re designed to stimulate agritourism. Lured off the beaten path of interstate highways, sojourners are encouraged to follow a trail of quilts through rural America.
The Quilt Trail project was started in 2001 by Donna Sue Groves, a field representative for the Ohio Arts Council, who wanted to honor her mother’s quilting by painting a quilt square on her barn. And so began the Adams County Quilt Barn Sampler driving trail. A national quilt trail has since spread from New York to Georgia, with more than 400 quilt squares installed on barns, flood walls, sheds and other significant community structures.
The state of Kentucky has embraced the quilt square project with 20 to 30 counties participating in The Kentucky Quilt Trail. Community volunteers paint the art, and local utilities often get involved by providing a bucket truck and workers to hang the quilt squares. Each community puts its own spin on the project, decorating everything from barns to floodwalls, restaurants, craft shops and libraries.
While quilting may be a traditional craft, Kentucky quilt square volunteers recently have found that high-tech products like Dibond® graphic display board by 3A Composites USA can work well in supporting their efforts.
Tiny Gallatin County – which encompasses approximately 99 square miles in northern Kentucky and serves as home to approximately 8,200 – recently added its own squares to the state’s quilt trail. County volunteers first turned to plywood as a substrate for their first barn quilt square – Kentucky Crossroads – which was painted and hung in 2007.
“We started with plywood and found it to be cumbersome and heavy,” said Tricia Houston, a Gallatin County Community Arts member and barn owner. “We found it really difficult to work with plywood and it required a large amount of primer. With Dibond, we only had to worry about one side of the material. There was no priming necessary and it accepted latex paint; we finished with a coat of polyurethane.”
(Left to right) Gallatin County volunteers Dick Koenig, Mary Jane Day and Barbara Finfrock paint the “Library Date” quilt square pattern on Dibond® aluminum composite material by 3A Composites USA for display at the Gallatin County Public Library as part of The Kentucky Trail agri-tourism project.
Dibond is a rigid, durable aluminum composite material consisting of two pre-painted sheets of .012-inch aluminum bonded to a solid polyethylene core – a unique composition that makes it approximately one-half the weight of aluminum. Dibond, the flattest panel on the market, offers a superior surface for displaying digital and screen-printed graphics. Dibond won’t bow or oil can, and it offers excellent durability in outdoor applications.
To start these projects, a smaller drawing of the quilt pattern is enlarged via an overhead projector and shown on the Dibond material for copying, according to Houston. Pieces are sectioned off with tape, and painting is completed one color at a time. Since the majority of barn quilt squares measure 8-by-8 feet, Gallatin volunteers use furring strips to attach two 4-by-8 foot sheets of Dibond. Furring strips also are used to frame the finished artwork.
Today, Gallatin County boasts five barn quilt squares, with two more in progress. Three of the squares measure 8-by-8 feet; two squares are custom 4-by-4 foot designs, including a standalone square created for the Gallatin County Public Library.
“Our goal is to showcase 20 to 30 quilt squares,” said Houston. “There’s a lot of personal pride and family history in these quilt patterns. They’ve often been passed down for generations.”
Dibond is available in 12 colors and in standard sheet sizes ranging from 48 inches by 96 inches to 60 inches by 120 inches. All colors are available in the 3mm thickness. White Dibond is available in 2mm, 3mm and 4mm thicknesses.